Our thanks to Alan for his email:
You may be interested that Linux Torvalds recently announced a new code of conduct and has taken time off from his role in charge of Linux development.
The background to this is Linus created Linux an outstandingly successful open source developed operating system which is the basis of android and many other embedded applications and server systems.
He is well known for on occasion outspoken communication about what he thinks are stupid or misguided changes or proposed changes to the operating system.
At the same time he has introduced an explicitly anti-meritocratic code of conduct: https://www.contributor-covenant.org/ and said he needed to get assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately. This followed The New Yorker approaching him with questions about his conduct.
This is in my opinion a disaster. Linux is well known for its high standards of quality and reliability. The reason is Linux himself, his unwillingness to accept second best and his willingness to communicate forcefully when something fell short of what he believed was required. Most contributors are volunteers and most are male. Faced with the prospect of an exposé of his abrasive response to poor contributions he has stepped down and introduced this anti-democratic pro-diversity code of conduct.
Linux has been an astonishing achievement by a volunteer community, predominantly but not exclusively men, who focused on technical excellence. In that environment if you make a mistake or propose something stupid there is immediate feedback that you were stupid. That is what is required in that environment and those who work in that way accept and appreciate the feedback. The fact that most of the contributors were men has led to Linus being targetted for his communication style, ignoring the fact that his achievement using this style have been consistently remarkable for decades.
The new code of conduct is explicitly anti-meritocratic. From the introduction to the code of conduct:
“Open Source has always been a foundation of the Internet, and with the advent of social open source networks this is more true than ever. But free, libre, and open source projects suffer from a startling lack of diversity, with dramatically low representation by women, people of color, and other marginalized populations.
Part of this problem lies with the very structure of some projects: the use of insensitive language, thoughtless use of pronouns, assumptions of gender, and even sexualized or culturally insensitive names.
Marginalized people also suffer some of the unintended consequences of dogmatic insistence on meritocratic principles of governance. Studies have shown that organizational cultures that value meritocracy often result in greater inequality. People with “merit” are often excused for their bad behavior in public spaces based on the value of their technical contributions. Meritocracy also naively assumes a level playing field, in which everyone has access to the same resources, free time, and common life experiences to draw upon. These factors and more make contributing to open source a daunting prospect for many people, especially women…”
Form the CoC itself:
“In the interest of fostering an open and welcoming environment, we as contributors and maintainers pledge to making participation in our project and our community a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of age, body size, disability, ethnicity, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression, level of experience, education, socio-economic status, nationality, personal appearance, race, religion, or sexual identity and orientation.”
My emphasis but really a code of conduct which is explicitly anti-meritocratic and forbids discrimination on the basis of experience and education! How can a technically challenging development be performed if competence based discrimination is not allowed?
This is perhaps a very geeky subject but it is a very sobering day with the potential for the destruction of the most successful large scale voluntary technical collaboration of all time.
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